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Multimodal Learning Environments. Presentation for Think About It Conference 17 June 2005 Dr Maureen Walsh Australian Catholic University

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multimodal learning environments

Multimodal Learning Environments

Presentation for Think About It Conference 17 June 2005

Dr Maureen Walsh

Australian Catholic University

“The young person who watches digital TV, downloads MP3 music onto a personal player, checks e-mail on a personal organiser and sends symbolised messages to a mobile phone of a friend will not be satisfied with a 500-word revision guide for [HSC] physics.”

Abbot, 2003

researchers contend e g kress 2003 bearne 2003 unsworth 2001 callow zammitt 2002
Researchers contend…[e.g.Kress (2003); Bearne (2003); Unsworth (2001); Callow & Zammitt (2002)]
  • Language-based pedagogy is no longer sufficient for literacy practices needed.
  • Students need ‘multiple literacy practices’ or ‘multiliteracies’.
  • Theories of reading have been drawn from the reading of monomodal or print-based texts.
Heath (2000) Neurobiological changes are occurring as a result of new modes of communication.
  • “Better theories of learning are embedded in video games than many children in primary and secondary schools ever experience in the classroom.” (Gee, 2003) “ … encourage children to be more critical, constructive & reflective.”
  • “Computer games require concentration, forward planning, lateral thinking & sustained problem solving” (Johnson)
  • .
theory of multimodality kress van leeuwen 2001 kress et al 2001 kress 2003
Theory of Multimodality …(Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2001; Kress et al, 2001; Kress, 2003)
  • emerged from attempts to conceptualise changed learning & literacy practices [visual literacy, technoliteracy, e-literacy, digital/silicon literacy, multiliteracies.]
  • communication occurs through different but synchronousmodes: language, print, images, graphics, movement, gesture, texture, music, sound.
multimodal texts 2 or more modes

Picture books and information texts

Talking books

CDRom narratives and factual texts


Web-sites, web search, web quests, book raps

Games, DVDs

Emails, discussion boards.


Emails, discussion boards

Slide shows [KidPix/ power point]

Digital photos

Digital videos, i-movies

Video editing


Web sites / home page

SMS messaging

Multimodal texts -2 or more modes
multimodal learning environments11
Multimodal Learning Environments

Incorporate a range of tasks that require a constant interchange with others and with texts using the modes of speech, print, image, movement, gesture and sound.

multimodal learning and literacy project 2004 acu ceo sydney ceo parramatta
‘Multimodal Learning and Literacy Project’ 2004 – ACU, CEO Sydney & CEO Parramatta


  • to examine how students read and interact with visual and multimodal texts in different curriculum areas, and
  • to examine what types of learning and or literacy are apparent in students' interactions with such texts.
14 teachers developed a range of tasks with multimodal texts k 8
14 Teachers developed a range of tasks with multimodal texts, K-8
  • Students [majority ESL] worked in small groups
  • Used one or more multimodal text [web site, CD Rom, picture book, information text, DVD]
  • Tasks integrated different curriculum areas
  • Sequence of tasks were developed over several lessons. These frequently resulted in a …



1 year 2 picture book and cd rom
1) Year 2 – Picture Book and CD Rom
  • Chn listened to the ‘words’ /print of the story ‘Grandma and Me’
  • Drew their own illustrations of the story.
  • Read the CD Rom version.
  • Played the CD Rom game.
  • Discussed with teacher the differences between the print / CDRom story.

Video clip

2 what were these children learning
2) What were these children learning?
  • Prediction, visualisation, decoding, making meaning - shared talk with teacher – produced own visual text
  • Read & responded to CD Rom – shared together – auditory/ visual/ gestural / kinaesthetic responses
  • Compared features of book with CD Rom – metatextual awareness/metacognition
3 yr 3 web quest power point
3) Yr 3 – Web Quest & Power Point
  • Pairs of Ss completed web quest on Gallipoli & Anzac Day – questions from T as guide.
  • Collated findings into an information report then into Power Point.
  • Presented to whole class.
  • Answered questions/comments from class members about their learning/process.

Video clip

what were these children learning
What were these children learning?
  • Understanding the historical and geographical events of Gallipoli.
  • Insights into the culture of Anzac Day.
  • Search skills, reading & interpreting questions, following links, locating & synthesising information.
  • Developing power point – organising information in own words, technical & production skills
  • Oral presentation skills & responses, peer support
4 yrs 3 4 visual literacy
4) Yrs 3-4 – Visual literacy
  • Ts used Gorilla, to develop Ss background knowledge of visual codes,
  • Groups applied to range of picture books [e.g. An Ordinary Day], Advertisements from local paper, 1stHarry Potter film.
  • Ss used digital cameras to compose photos applying visual codes.
  • Ss participated in Book Raps with other schools – activities e.g. dramatisation, photos, p/point, survey, journal responses
what were these children learning20
What were these children learning?
  • Visual codes [angles, framing, colour, demands/offers/salience etc] – how they construct meaning. + metalanguage.
  • Application & articulation of this knowledge to other texts/products.
  • Peer collaboration, reflective learning, creative engagement, critical awareness, critical literacy – deep learning evident.
  • Online communication & learning.
5 yr 4 scaffolded web quest
5) Yr 4 – Scaffolded Web Quest
  • Ss in mixed ability groups research 2 Aust animals using websites/information books
  • Whole class retrieval chart provided as scaffold – Ss recorded information.
  • Ts provided continual scaffolding of knowledge, skills & language.
  • Ss compared & contrasted 2 animals from chart. Synthesised into concept map.
  • Produced information report on powerpoint. Video clip
what were these children learning22
What were these children learning?
  • Science content re animals, content vocabulary & language.
  • Technology skills of searching/navigating – locating, comprehending, synthesising & recording main facts.
  • S talking was to process learning – peer support.
  • Oral – written knowledge: from websites to retrieval chart to powerpoint - developed through T. scaffolding
other examples
Other examples
  • Year 8 Secondary students evaluated web quests and developed home pages. [For further Secondary egs see Beavis 2002]
  • Year 6 class – digital videoing, i-movies and video editing with Secondary boys.
  • Year 6 – developed animation in advertisements
  • Year 6 – developed products using Inspiration software.
findings literacy
Findings – Literacy
  • Decoding not an apparent problem – in some cases Ss read aloud to help each other. [Coding practice]
  • Comprehension developed as Ss were motivated to find information – collaborated.[Semantic practice] – Many found recording information ‘in own words’ the most difficult.
  • Only some instances of criticalpractice.
  • Metalanguage of visual grammar / digital codes assisted Ss literacy & learning.
  • Literacy embedded within integrated, purposeful tasks.
findings learning
Findings - Learning
  • Talking enhanced Ss learning as they talked through the process of the tasks and their understanding of the texts and curriculum content.
  • Peer support and collaborative learning occurred.
  • Evidence of problem solving, reflective thinking, metacognition, deep learning, creative thinking.
  • Ss’ articulation of their learning- revealing.

Multimodal learning environments can provide stimulating engagement in learning and literacy when…

  • tasks are carefully planned in a logical, coherent sequence,
  • integrated with curriculum content and skills, and
  • Ss are able to respond to and use different modes of communication.
“What’s our children’s working environment going to be like in the future?

Will it look like their gaming life, where they’re checking 5 emails while having a conversation, while moving through these virtual worlds, or is it going to look like reading a book?

If we’re going to train kids for that future, we probably need environments that are going to reflect what it’s really going to be like”. (Johnson, in SMH 3 June 2005)

survey of 350 students
Survey of 350 students
  • Majority read books, particularly novels – did not find reading difficult or boring.
  • Larger nos of students either watched TV, played digital games than read ‘in their spare time’.
  • Majority enjoyed using the internet in their spare time and ‘never’ found it boring - commented that they did not have trouble navigating it and did not need help from older people.
  • Larger no of students said they found it easier to read on a screen than printed page.
  • Internet use was dependent on access at home.
  • Older students used emails more frequently than younger students.